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Cancer Research UK launches scheme to bring together engineers, physicists and biologists

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by Cancer Research UK | News

14 August 2014

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A new funding scheme launched by Cancer Research UK today (Thursday) looks to bring new insight to some of cancer’s biggest challenges.

The Cancer Research UK Multidisciplinary Project Award will fund projects that encourage collaborations between cancer researchers and scientists from the engineering and physical sciences.

Projects could cover anything from finding innovative ways to detect and treat the disease to new techniques to understand cancer. The new scheme will fund around 10 projects each year; each project will provide four years funding up to a total of £500,000.

Increasing the interaction between different disciplines has the potential to make a real impact in tackling cancer. Combining new technologies and different perspectives will speed up the breakthroughs that will mean more people survive cancer.

Such collaborations are already making a difference. Cancer Research UK scientists in Cambridge worked with their astronomy colleagues to use techniques originally developed to spot the most distant stars, to find markers to predict a breast cancer’s aggressiveness. This work could mean that pathologists no longer need to look down the microscope to spot key differences in every tumour sample, potentially speeding up the tests that guide treatment decisions. 

Professor Sir Mike Brady, an engineer by training who has worked in cancer research for the last 20 years at the University of Oxford will chair the expert review committee that will consider applications.

Professor Sir Brady said: “Massive strides have been made in understanding, diagnosing and treating cancer and that has been based largely on fundamental biology research. But, the important contributions of physical scientists, from sensing and imaging through nanotechnology to big data analysis based on machine learning, are increasingly recognised as fundamental drivers in cancer research. We now want to bring these different groups together from the outset of a research project to see what discoveries they can make working in close collaboration.”

Dr David Scott, director of science funding at Cancer Research UK, said: “Taking truly innovative approaches to tackling cancer will come from bringing together researchers from different disciplines. The new Multidisciplinary Project Award will stimulate collaborations between biomedical research and the engineering and physical sciences. We’re looking for applications that will tackle cancer from a number of areas including better detection, drug-delivery technologies and imaging.”


For media enquiries contact the Cancer Research UK press office on 020 3469 8300 or, out of hours, on 07050 264 059.